WASHINGTON -- Gun nuts are calling the National Rifle Association's bluff.
After a year and a half of stockpiling weapons and ammunition, a buying binge that sent gun company stocks soaring, weapons enthusiasts seem to have realized that President Barack Obama and his allies in Congress are not, in fact, going to take away their guns.
The push to expand background checks for gun purchases, launched after the massacre of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012, fell short in the Senate and was never taken up in the House, but it helped fuel the buying binge, which continued with the news that former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg planned to spend millions to push gun control. The paranoia was stoked by the NRA and the gun industry itself, which benefited from fears that the Second Amendment was in peril.
But even the most paranoid gun buyers are starting to understand that Washington will be unable to do anything anytime soon to stem the flow of school shootings -- of which there have been 74 since Sandy Hook.
Now, a leading gun manufacturer's stock is sliding as the demand for guns is expected to decline.
In its financial report released last Thursday, Smith & Wesson reported a 4.6 percent decline in profits for its fourth quarter, compared to last year. The company is also predicting lower demand for the coming year.
According to Bloomberg.com, financial analysts think that fears of tighter gun legislation have stalled, which is leading to fewer people buying guns.
"Demand for modern sporting rifles has fallen off significantly following the post-Newton [sic] legislation-driven demand and the ensuing post-surge period," said Chris Krueger, an analyst at Lake Street Capital Markets, in a note to clients. "Long gun sales will decline about 25 percent in FY2015 and become a smaller percentage of Smith & Wesson's sales."
Dean Lockwood, a weapons systems analyst at the market research firm Forecast International, told The Huffington Post that gun owners "have gotten over the panic buying stage and are back to a more normal level."
"Because of all the political furor, there was a huge spike in purchases in guns and ammunition. There were major retailers who could literally not keep things on the shelves -- people were buying things as soon as they put them out there. And that has since eased up. I don't know if you want to say people have gotten their fill, but the panic has subsided somewhat," he said.
Lockwood noted that gun sales are typically volatile based on political conditions.
"We're starting to see the ebb in the ebb and flow of sales. The gun industry is especially susceptible, given the politics of it, and you will see spikes and then it will ease off, spikes and then it will ease off," he said.
"It doesn't take much for another spike, another panic," Lockwood added. "You could have one announcement -- boom, we're right back. It's that sort of situation. Don't think of it as a rounded bell curve. Think of it as [a] spike and then gradual valley from there, because that's the way it tends to run."
However, he noted that the gun industry also relies on brand loyalty, which can help stabilize the market. In that sense, he thinks Smith & Wesson's sales decline is fairly inconsequential and "a blip on the radar in the grand scheme of things."
"Smith & Wesson knows that they'll have customers who will always buy Smith & Wesson. It's that sort of loyalty that drives them and sustains them. As long as they can maintain the quality of their products, there's going to be a market," he said.
Smith & Wesson reported record profits for fiscal year 2014, and overall its stock has risen dramatically over the last year. The company's financial success has been bolstered by rising handgun sales for self-defense purposes and an increase in state concealed-carry legislation. According to The Wall Street Journal, the company has been focusing on a new line of lightweight pistols that can be stowed inside a small purse or a pocket.
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